Research Technician Fellowship

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Are you an undergraduate or high school student over the age of 16 interested in experiencing scientific research and tree science?

Are you excited to learn new skills while getting paid?

Are you worried about applying because you don’t have any experience?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, this introductory internship is for you. Undergraduate and high school students over the age of 16, with little or no experience, are invited to participate in ongoing research at The Morton Arboretum, be mentored by our scientists, and see what it’s like to join a scientific research group. Experience careers that explore solutions for climate change, biodiversity, natural resources management, and urban life. Laboratory, computer, and outdoor field opportunities available.

The Center for Tree Science’s Integrated Mentorship Program is committed to supporting students and professionals at every stage in their careers. As the Arboretum continues to grow a diverse and inclusive program, flexible work assignments and additional assistance may be available.

Individuals from schools and universities with limited research opportunities, groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM programs, first- and second-year undergraduates, persons with disabilities, and veterans currently enrolled in an undergraduate program are encouraged to apply.

Applications for this program are no longer being accepted. Please contact with any questions or to be notified when applications open for the next Research Technician Fellowship opportunity.

Fall 2023 Projects

Forest Ecology (part-time)

Trees at The Morton Arboretum record and preserve decades to centuries of information on growth responses to environmental conditions in their annual rings. In collaboration with the Herbarium, we are forming a formal archival collection of wood cross-sections so that comparative research on growth trends and wood anatomy can be performed while leveraging the wealth of information and extended records (e.g. Herbarium, BRAHMS) that is truly unique to The Morton Arboretum. Student interns will assist with the full cycle of collections development and curation, including specimen cataloging, sample preparation, dendrochronological analysis, and digitization.

Special considerations: Interns must be comfortable lifting 30+ lbs assisted (15 lbs unassisted) and with the use of power tools, including belt sanders and potentially saws (after training). Applicants do not need to know how to use these tools already, but must not be afraid to learn.

Global Tree Conservation Program (part-time)

Many native oaks are threatened with extinction in the wild which play vital roles in various ecosystems. Unfortunately, the lack of comprehensive data on their ecology and distribution has hindered effective conservation decision-making. The Global Tree Conservation Program is working on compiling this information for Mesoamerican oak species. This is an opportunity for students to learn about ecology, diversity concepts, and the threats that many Oak species are facing in the Mesoamerican.

Students will be actively involved in data curation, searching for relevant information about the ecology and threats faced by Mesoamerican Oaks, and contributing to the development of species distribution maps. While prior knowledge of coding is preferred, it is not mandatory, as the techniques can be learned on the job. Candidates should be comfortable with computer-based work, as most tasks are conducted digitally. Applicants should be enthusiastic and open to new experiences and training, eager to contribute to the conservation of Mesoamerican oak species and the preservation of their vital ecosystems.

Herbarium and Plant Systematics Lab (part-time)

The Morton Arboretum Herbarium houses more than 190,000 dried plant specimens and 18,000 lichens, many from Illinois and Missouri. Research being conducted in the Herbarium and Plant Systematics Lab focuses on the diversification and evolution of plant lineages. It employs the tools of molecular phylogenetics, phylogenomics, morphometrics, population genetics, and field ecology to address basic questions about patterns of plant biodiversity: How many species are there? How are they delimited and identified? How are they related and how strong are the barriers to gene flow between species?

The student will join the Morton Arboretum’s Herbarium and Plant Systematics Laboratory, assisting in aspects of specimen processing in the herbarium and various projects as needed. Activities in specimen processing may include collecting and pressing plants, label making/clean-up, mounting specimens, accessioning, data entry and/or proofreading, filing, and imaging. The student will obtain broad training in herbarium collection work while serving as an active member of the Herbarium and Systematics Laboratory.

Soil Ecology Lab (part-time)

The Soil Ecology Lab at The Morton Arboretum studies plant-soil interactions in a changing world. We develop new insights into relationships among plants, microbes, and soil and evaluate their collective responses to global and regional environmental changes. The student will participate in a variety of projects in the lab where we study how trees and prairie plants impact soil properties; how plants, fungi, and soils respond to burning; and how to improve urban soils for trees and ecosystem services.

This fellowship will expose the student to a mix of field, greenhouse, and lab work. Field work includes plant surveys, biomass collections, and soil sampling; greenhouse work includes harvesting plants for root trait analyses; and lab work includes processing soil samples, analyzing soil nutrient contents, and establishing and maintaining experiments. We seek a student with a desire to learn more about soils and plants to join our supportive and passionate group.